Have you ever had that experience where you set an important goal for yourself, get intense about achieving it, work hard and grit your teeth to push it over the finish line and when you arrive there’s absolutely no joy? Just a whimper.
I have – and it feels like you just ran a whole marathon only to find out that the actual marathon isn’t until next week. And you were wondering why participation seemed so low this year. You get the wind knocked out of you and all that’s left is a deep disappointment and lack of direction.
The reason why you feel no joy about the achievement of a goal that you thought you wanted is because your inherited someone else’s goal and tried to make it your own. But it never was because there was no alignment between that goal and what matters to you. Here’s how you can tell if you’ve set such a misaligned goal: The aim of the goal is the accumulation of resources not what those resources will do to better your life.
Think about it this way: Imagine you are a farmer and your family is the most important thing to you and your mission in life is to take care of them. In order to do so you need your fields plowed, planted and harvested and for that you need tools. So you set a goal to accumulate the tools you need to take care of those you value most. You work hard, take extra jobs, pinch every penny you can and get obsessed with getting those tools. So much so that you have forgotten why you were getting the tools in the first place. You are laser focused and hellbent on getting those tools – whatever it takes. Then finally one day you reach your goal and you find yourself sitting in a still unplowed, unplanted and unharvested field, surrounded by all these tools you worked so hard grappling with this deep sense of disappointment and wonder if it was worth it.
Capital, Income, Net Worth are just resources, essentially tools. They’re the means to an end not the end itself. If you want to set goals that are aligned with what matters, you must spend more time thinking about what you value and how the resources you accumulate will help you improve and take better care of those people and causes that are important than obsessing over the tools. If you set a goal to make a million dollars because that’s what you think a meaningful goal looks like I have news for you. There’s no joy at the end of that rainbow. No amount will make you happy on its own. Perhaps there will be a brief high and ego boost but once that’s gone, there’s nothing left but the residue of disappointment.
Instead think about what that million dollars will allow you to do and design in advance the life you could create with those resources. How will that million dollars help you take better care of your family or start that business or travel for an extended period of time or …
The best part is that you get to decide what’s important. The most important part is that you don’t lose sight of it.